Friday, December 20, 2013

Shrinky Dink Photo Ornament heard that right.
Shrinky Dink and photo in the same sentence.
And if you are is NOT inkjet printable Shrink Film.
Yeah, because I am a rebel like that.

So here is how this all started.
I agreed to help make some Shrink Film ornaments for bunch of kids from the church, about 65. Well I started by tracing the design onto the Shrink Film with Sharpie, but realized it was going to take forever and a day. The package of Shrink Film says that you can use rubber stamps. It also says that it is NOT inkjet printable. But whatev.
So I decided to test it out, and guess what?
It worked!

So this is what you do:
Start by finding an image that you want to use. I used a photo of my new baby niece, Brooklyn.
I changed it to black and white using Picmonkey, and then did a little more editing. I added a banner and some text, and then cropped it down to a square.

Next, use your 300-400 grit sandpaper to sand one side of your Shrink Film.

Wipe all the dust off of the film and then print your image onto it.
*Also, use the fast/economical setting on your printer. The lowest quality your printer has. You want the least amount of ink possible, so it doesn't smear.

Set your  printed Shrink Film aside to dry for a few minutes while your oven preheats. You want it to be between 300 and 350 degrees. I used 350.

When your oven is preheated, cut out your image and punch a hole or two for the ribbon.

Place your Shrink Film onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment, and then cover the Shrink Film with parchment.

Bake for 2-3 minutes, until the Shrink Film has shrunk down to about 1/3 to 1/5 of the original size. Remove from oven and let cool.
*If the Shrink Film is curled or anything when it comes out, just flatten it with a spatula and put it back into the oven for another minute. It is very forgiving.

Once cooled, string with your favorite ribbon or baker's twine. Beautiful.

Isn't this baby GORGEOUS! If you could see her steely blue eyes you'd die!

Oh, and P.S.
I bought my Shrink Film at Joann's. $6 for 6 sheets. I used 1/2 sheet for this ornament. Not a bad deal.
You can also buy it in bulk from Amazon.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gift Wrapping Tips's really that time of year.
Time to wrap your Christmas gifts.
I'd like to share a quick tip or two about gift wrapping.
Specifically for Christmas time, and specifically for kids.

 Growing up I remember my Mom rustling around under the tree on Christmas morning trying to remember which gift was what, and in what order she would like them to be opened.

Well, I have a solution for that problem. It may be about 10 years too late for my Mom, but it's definitely not too late for me.

Tip # 1:
Choose a different gift wrap for each one of your kids. I have 3 kids, and I buy 3 different gift wraps. Each kid has all of their presents wrapped in the same paper. The is no rummaging through gifts trying to read the gift tag to pass out presents.
*Also keep in mind to have a completely different wrap for your "Santa" gifts. I wrap all the Santa gifts in brown packing paper and tie it up with a really fancy ribbon and gift tag. Something silver or gold would be magical too.

 I usually have the same or similar gifts for each one of my kids. Like they all will get a video game (a Wii game for one and DS games for the others). Maybe they will all get a toy that is similar in price. They will all have an equal number of gifts and I want them to open their similar gifts at the same time. It's easy to forget what's what when it is wrapped under the tree.

Tip # 2:
I do a sort of a code, or cheat sheet on the bottom of my kids' presents. You could also do it on the gift tag, but I don't use gift tags because I know which gifts belong to which kid based on the gift wrap.
So basically, if I had 3 presents for each kid, I would write a 1 on the bottom of the presents I want them to each open first, a 2 on the ones I want them to open second and so forth. In the picture I wrote A-1, B-1, and C-1. A, B, and C stand for my kids. That was unnecessary in my case because of the gift wrap, but you get the idea. If your kids don't have the same initials like mine do, you could use their initials and then the # of the gift.

And last...
Do you ever go to wrap a gift and realize you don't have any ribbon? Or maybe you are like me and you love fancy wired ribbon but are too cheap to buy it. Either way, I have some great alternatives to your traditional ribbon or gift bow.

Tip # 3:
Use something a little less traditional. Like fabric! Cut, or tear, strips of coordinating fabric to  wrap around you gift like ribbon.
Or, if you have some ribbon scraps that are not long enough to go around the gift or make a bow, you can wrap 1 piece of ribbon or fabric around and then tie the ends around your scraps. Who needs a bow. Not me.
Or, maybe you don't have ribbon or fabric...but I can guarantee you have gift wrap. 'Cause you are wrapping gifts, duh. Well, use this little mini-tutorial below to use "gift wrap paper ribbons". No extra supplies required. Just gift wrap, scissors and tape. Easy. And cute.

These tips are definitely not huge and life changing, but they make my Christmas mornings a tad less crazy. And seriously, I need a lot of breaks in the mental health department this time of year.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday Apple Crumb Pie Cupcakes

Hey there!
I shared this post a couple weeks ago at Sugar Bee Crafts! It was a great opportunity for a new blogger like myself to guest post at one of my favorite blogs!

Now I get to share this yummy cupcake recipe here!

This cupcake is a remix of my favorite pie. All the same flavors and ingredients, just in the form of a cupcake. YUM!

Apple Crumb Pie Cupcakes.

Okay, now let's get to baking. This cupcake basically has four parts. The cake, the frosting, the pie crust crisps and the streusel crumbs. It sounds time consuming, but you can make the frosting and the toppings during the time the cupcakes are in the oven. Seriously, it's so worth it!

Apple Spice Cake
1 stick butter- soft
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
(or, omit cinnamon and nutmeg & use 1 1/2 tsp. apple pie spice)
2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups finely chopped or grated granny smith apple (I used 4 apples and my food processer)
*In a mixer, or large bowl, mix butter, oil, both sugars, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Mix in soda, powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg until fully incorporated. Mix in flour until smooth. Last, add apples. Quickly stir until evenly combined. Fill cupcake wrappers about 2/3 full (an ice cream scoop is the perfect size to fill a cupcake). Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Slightly Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick butter- soft
1/2 block cream cheese- soft
1/2 cup caramel sauce
1 tsp. vanilla
about 6 cups powdered sugar
a splash of milk
*In a mixer, cream together butter, cream cheese, caramel and vanilla until smooth. Mix in powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Add milk a tablespoon at a time until you have a smooth creamy texture that forms soft peaks. Scoop frosting into an icing bag or the corner of a gallon bag. Twist and close the end with a twist tie and snip about an inch of the tip.

Streusel Crumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter
* Mix flour, sugar and butter until it starts to resemble dry crumbs. It will look dry, while also holding its shape. Drop crumb mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, stirring mixture half way to prevent burning. Crumbs should be golden brown and slightly crunchy. Let cool and set aside.

Pie Crust Crisps
1 pie crust rolled thin (I used store bought)
cooking spray
cinnamon and sugar mixture
* Slice pie crust into thin strips about an inch long. Line up on parchment lined baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, until crispy golden brown. Let cool and set aside.

 To decorate, make an assembly line. On a large surface, set out cooled cupcakes (and an extra wrapper for each cupcake if you want to get fancy), frosting bag, toppings, and your serving platter or cupcake box.
Place each cupcake into the extra wrappers. Frost each cupcake by making a swirl, starting on the outside and working your way to the middle. Top each cupcake with some streusel crumbs and a pie crust crisp. Repeat with all of your cupcakes, until you are finished.

Now that is a plate of pie! Okay, so it's not actually pie...but I seriously can't think of anything much better than a cupcake that tastes like my favorite pie. I hope you will try this fun holiday recipe!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

1 (pack of meat) +1 (afternoon cooking) +1 (weeks time) = 3 (totally different meals)

So I know I have mentioned that I am a fan of leftovers.
Buuuut, that doesn't mean it has to be the same exact meal.
I am also a fan of transforming the same meat into different meals.
So last Sunday, I put one large package of boneless pork ribs into my slow cooker, and ate off of them for the whole week.

The awesome part about it is that I had 3 different dinners, that definitely didn't lack variety....and I didn't have to spend an hour cooking each night.

Night one we had BBQ Ribs! I served them with a veggie rice and roasted spicy ranch potatoes.

Night 2-4 we had BBQ Pork Pretzel Bun Sandwiches! I topped them with my favorite Homemade French Fried Onions and served with oven tater tots.

Night 5-7 we had Carnitas-style Pork Tacos. Didn't have a side, but would be great with Mexican rice and black beans.

So here is the trick to start with:
Both the BBQ ribs and BBQ shredded pork have a lot of the same seasonings as the Carnitas-style pork. That is how you want to season the ribs for the slow cooker.

Start by making a quick dry rub. (I use this same rub for roast turkey or chicken, steaks, pork chops
 and so much more)

You will want equal parts (depending on the amount of meat, try about 1 tbsp.)
garlic powder
onion powder
kosher salt
brown sugar
And then, you will want half as much of each of these seasonings (so about 1/2 tbsp.)
cayenne pepper
red pepper flakes
black pepper

Mix all spices and rub into or sprinkle over all sides of ribs.)

Add to your slow cooker, and then cover with the following liquid:
add about 2 tablespoons of powdered BBQ seasoning (I used a packet of McCormick Texas BBQ Rub) to about 2 cups broth, either beef or chicken.

 Now, cover your slow cooker and cook on high for about 4 hours, or on low for about 6-8 hours.

*Make sure and check the meat at about 3 or so hours (on high). The trick is to take out the ribs that you are going to use for BBQ ribs before the rest of the meat. You want them to be tender, but not falling apart. Once the ribs reach that point you want to pull them. Leave the rest of the meat for another hour or so until they are falling apart. At that point remove the rest of the meat and shred as soon as it is cool enough.

For the BBQ Rib meal:
Take the ribs you took out first and lay on a foil lined baking sheet.  Baste with BBQ sauce and sprinkle with powered BBQ seasoning. Put under the broiler for 5-10 minutes on each side, until heated through and starts to caramelize on the edges. Serve with your choice of sides and dig in.

For the BBQ Pork Pretzel Bun Sandwich meal:
Take half of the remaining shredded meat and mix with a couple tablespoons of the powdered BBQ seasoning and a couple tablespoons of BBQ sauce. Heat through and serve on toasted pretzel bun. Top with homemade french fried onions and serve with some oven fries. Simple but so delish.

For the Carnitas-style Pork Taco meal:

Take the rest of the shredded pork and season with a couple tablespoons of cumin, a tablespoon of onion powder and about a half tablespoon of paprika and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Feel free to add some packaged taco seasoning if you like but definitely add extra cumin.  Heat in a saute pan and serve on your favorite tortilla (I love the Mission brand artisan blend that is half flour/half corn tortilla). Top with fresh chopped onion,  lettuce, tomato,  cilantro, hot sauce or salsa and a squeeze of lime if you like. Serve on their own or with some Mexican rice and black beans. Yum.

So there it is. 1 package of ribs in your slow cooker, plus 1 afternoon cooking, plus 1 weeks time...and you have 3 different meals. Now that is what I call yummy leftovers. 


Guest Posting At Sugar Bee Crafts

Hey guys, I have something really exciting to tell you...
I am guest-posting today at Sugar Bee Crafts, one of my favorite blogs!
Mandy basically did an open call for guest posters, and picked anyone who signed up.
I posted a tutorial on Apple Crumb Pie Cupcakes, which is a great alternative to your traditional holiday dessert!
Please go check it out HERE! Look around her blog also, because it is pretty amazing!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Honey Almond Shrimp

Have any of you out there been to McCall, Idaho?
Probably not.
Well, is a little resort town where my family vacations.
There is a Chinese restaurant there, which used to be called the Panda. It has changed ownership, and names, but they still have the best shrimp recipe ever.
Honey Almond Shrimp. Yum.

It is basically tempura fried shrimp with a delicious honey sauce and toasted almonds on top, served over fresh sliced cabbage.
This is really the ultimate in sweet & savory yumminess.
Not to mention, my husbands favorite dish that he has ever eaten from a restaurant.
Unfortunately, due to geography, we only get to order this once or twice a year.
I have been trying to copy-cat this recipe and finally got it down.
Trust me, you want to make this.

Here's what you need.
1-2 pounds shrimp- peeled and deveined
1 box tempura batter
canola oil for frying
sweetened condensed milk
sliced almonds- toasted
thinly sliced green cabbage

Now, here is what you do.
Make sauce by mixing about 1/3 cup mayo with 2 tablespoons each of honey and sweetened condensed milk, and stir until smooth. Set aside. Mix tempura batter according to instructions on the package. Heat oil to about 350. Hand dip shrimp one at time and add carefully to oil, until you have about a dozen in the pot. Fry for just about 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. (Now, this can be a little tedious, but it goes quickly.) Fry in batches until all shrimp are fried. In a large bowl, toss shrimp with sauce until well coated. Serve over a bed of cabbage and top with sliced toasted almonds. Serve with spring rolls, or fried rice.
Now, seriously. Tell me this doesn't look freakin' amazing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sugar Cookie Bar Mummy Pops


This is a last minute Halloween treat that I am making for my son's kindergarten "Fall" party (well remaking, 'cause these ones are going to get eaten at home, and I will make them again on Halloween...whatev.)
I signed up to make a sweet treat for his class (yayyy) and a healthy treat for my other son's class (ehhh).
Sweet treat...right up my alley, because I am addicted to sugar.
Really, like call up the detox and get me a bed.
Anyway, to feed my habit....provide a snack for my son's class, I came up with these last minute Sugar Cookie Bar Mummy Pops.

Here's the great thing about these...there is no rolling, cookie cutter, fancy piping bags, or anything fussy at all. I had about an hour and a half from the time this idea popped into my mind until I had to get my little guy to school.
So here is what you need (and I did take some shortcuts).
-1 batch of sugar cookie dough (I used Betty Crocker mix, which requires 1 egg & 1 stick butter)
-Powdered sugar, about 4-6 cups
-1 stick butter, softened
-vanilla, 1 tsp.
-milk, about 1/4 cup
-salt, 1/8 tsp.
-white candy melts (And a baggie for drizzling, optional)
-candy eyes, or any type of small candy (m&m's, sprinkles, chocolate chips)
-lollipop sticks, or paper straws (optional)
-square baking pan, 8X8
-2 8 inch wide strips of parchment

Next, here is a quick little tutorial collage.

For the frosting, you will need about 1/4 - 1/3 cup soft butter. Cream butter with about 1 tsp. vanilla and tiny pinch of salt. Add powdered sugar, starting with about 4 cups. Mix into butter, it should be dry and lumpy. Next, mix in milk about 1 tablespoon at a time until the frosting is the desired consistency. I like mine to have stiff peaks, so it will hold it's shape on the cookie. If you add too much milk, just add a little more sugar. No biggie.

So now, you should have your mummy pops, or mummy cookies if you decide to forget the stick.
Quick, easy, cute, yummy.  Missing anything? I think not.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Loaded Potato Soup w/ Loaded Cheddar Biscuits's what's for dinner.  Yes, I said SOUP, not beef.
Did I ever mention that I LOVE soup?
Yeah, I think so.
How about another quick, easy & delicious soup recipe.
Perfect for this time of year.
Warm, comforting, and oh so yummy.


So here is the recipe. It's seriously sooo easy. The measurements aren't crucial like baking, it is hard to mess up.

Loaded Potato Soup (large batch)
about 1 pound cooked ham- finely chopped (I used a thick ham steak)
1 clove garlic- finely diced or grated
1 jalapeno- seeds & rib removed & finely diced (optional)
1-2 onions- chopped
2-3 carrots- finely chopped
about 5 large yellow or red potatoes- peeled & coarsely chopped
1/4 cup flour
6 cups chicken broth or stock
several cups milk
salt and pepper
cooked bacon crumbles
cheddar cheese
sliced scallions

-Start by prepping your toppings if necessary. Set aside.
-Next, in a large soup pot, brown diced ham in a splash of oil. Once browned on the edges, remove from pan and set aside.
-Next, add garlic and jalapeno to the pan, and cook for about a minute, just until garlic starts to become fragrant.
-Add about a tablespoon of butter or oil and add onions. Season with salt and pepper & cook for a few minutes, until they become soft and start to get some color.
-Next, add the carrots and continue to cook veggies until they become slightly tender.
-Move veggies to the outside of the pan, making a well in the center.
-Next, add a couple tablespoons of butter or oil the center of the pan and then add the flour. Mix flour into the butter/oil and stir into the veggies. Continue to cook the veggies and flour mixture for a minute or two, stirring often.
-Next, add the chicken broth and stir, just long enough to get the flour dissolved into the liquid.
-Turn heat to med-high and add potatoes. Season well with salt and pepper and let liquid come to a simmer.
-Continue to simmer until the potatoes become tender. About 5-10 minutes.
-Once potatoes are soft, add a few cups of milk. Just enough to fill your pot or achieve the consistency you like. (My soup was not super thick. It was about as thick as gravy, rather than chowder.)
-Once you add your milk, you will bring to a simmer one last time, and season to taste. Once it starts to simmer, quickly reduce heat and serve with all the toppings you like and maybe even Loaded Cheddar Biscuits.

I mean, seriously YUM! If you notice, this soup is not creamy white like a lot of potato soups. The slightly darker color comes from the chicken broth and the  caramelized ham and veggies. I love that about this soup, because to me color = flavor.

Now I will quickly add the biscuit recipe.

Loaded Cheddar Biscuits

Make a batch of biscuit dough, like Bisquick, according to package directions. Add 2/3 cup grated cheddar, and about a handful each of cooked bacon crumbles, diced jalapeno, and sliced scallions. Mix into dough, and bake according to package directions. While the biscuits are in the oven, melt 1/4 cup butter and mix with a teaspoon each of garlic powder and dried parsley. When the biscuits are just out of the oven, spoon a bit of the butter/herb mixture over the top of the hot biscuits. YUM!

Friday, October 18, 2013

5 Minute Sweatshirt Upcycle

My daughter is all girl.
I mean, obviously.
But she is ALL GIRL, like totally girly, not sporty, not athletic, not a tom-boy.
All Girl.
She loves dresses, and skirts, and anything that is sparkly.
I, however, find it a lot more practical to wear jeans, or leggings to school sometimes.
She can wear a dress maybe once a week, but not every day.

When shopping for her, I find that the "embellished" shirt is always more expensive than the plain one.
Duh, I get it. But usually, it's hard for me to justify paying $16 for the embellished shirt rather than $10 for the same shirt, that just happens to be plain.
Can I tell you a secret though, I usually like the embellished shirts more too.

Here's a perfect example:

Old navy has some really cute crew neck sweatshirts. Some plain, which are cute, and some sparkly ones, which are cuter.

Well, if you are wondering...I bought the plain one, for $10 (actually $7.50, I had a coupon).

But I am not going to settle for cute, when I can achieve cuter myself.

Do you want to upcycle a plain shirt too?

All you need is a plain sweatshirt (preferably with the neck stitching that makes a triangle shape), glitter t-shirt vinyl scrap, scissors, and an iron. All stuff I had around the house.

1. Pre-wash your shirt, and dry. WITHOUT FABRIC SOFTENER!
2. Cut your vinyl scrap down to size, whatever size you need. Just eyeball it.
3. Iron on, and ta-da!

This literally took 5 minutes, and cost nothing. It's not a huge difference, but according to Old Navy, it's worth at least $6....right?

I love it and so does my girly, sparkle loving daughter.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Apple Crumb Mini Pies

Apple Crumb Pie is one of the first major desserts I ever made. It also happens to be a story that is retold every Thanksgiving and Christmas since I was 10 and probably for the rest of my life.
I mean seriously, I was 10....cut me a little slack.

Just in case you're curious, this is what happened...

I was about 10 years old & it was Thanksgiving. I planned to make an apple pie (from scratch) while my mom was at work. I read the recipe many times, just to make sure I knew exactly what to do. I made the crust successfully & moved on to the apples. I thought I should peel them, but I re-read the recipe & it didn't say a word about peeling the apples. So....I didn't. I finished the pie & it was a total success. We had dinner at my Aunt's house & were cutting into the dessert. Everyone was complimenting my pie & how nice it looked. My mom was the first to have a piece. She took a bite & half-way through chewing she said "Did you peel the apples?" What, peel the apples? Really, it didn't say anything about peeling the apples. Well...being the very sensitive kid that I was, I started crying. My cousins took this as an opportunity to get a good laugh. I was locked in the bathroom crying, all the adults were trying to make me feel better, & my cousins were sliding pictures under the door. Pictures of a piece of pie with a whole apple in it....and pictures of Haley's Fiber Bars. Yeah, looking back, it is pretty funny, and totally not a big deal. But at the time I was really embarrassed. It did actually taste good, and since then, I have perfected my version of the apple pie. (Oh, and just for the record, the recipe said "pared" apples...which if I'm not mistaken, means "peeled")

So, this time I used my Apple Crumb Pie recipe and tweaked it to make mini pies. I don't know exactly where this recipe originated, but it is very similar to the one I used at 10 years old.

So, let's get started.

Here's the recipe-
pie crust (enough for a double crust pie) I used store bought...gasp
about 6 medium granny smith apples
1 lemon- juice and zest
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

for the topping-
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 1/2 tablespoons butter (cold)

Roll out crust and cut into as many 5 inch circles as you can get (I got 16). Take each circle and press into a muffin tin, just like you would a regular pie. Now, you will need to finish the edge and trim any excess crust (I used the same method I use when making a full size pie, but there are many methods to finish the edge). At this point, put your finished crusts into the fridge.
Next, you will want to prep your apples. First, peel and core, and then chop, pretty finely. Once all apples are chopped, add the zest and juice of one lemon. Next, add the dry ingredients, and mix well.
Set aside, and make the crumb topping. First, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold butter and cut in using a fork, pastry cutter, or mixer. Mix until the mixture resembles barely wet sand. It should look fairly dry, but should somewhat clump together.
Remove crusts from fridge, and fill with apples. Top with a generous amount of crumb topping, and bake in a 375 oven for about 35-45 minutes. Just until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling.

Serve warm, with ice cream....

....or just pick it up and shove the whole thing in your mouth. Not saying I did that. Also not saying I didn't.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Kitchen Tip: Perfect Burger Patties

So, normally I would start by saying how much I love this, or how I make it all the time.
Not today.
I am just not a big fan of burgers.
My husband is.
Awesome.  : [
It kind of sucks to cook something you don't like to eat.
So, once a year or so, when I play "good wifey" for a day, I make the dreaded burger.
Here's the thing the heck do you make a burger patty that doesn't shrink by half and fall apart?

Well....I was experimenting and came up with a really great way to make nice, even burger patties.
They will shrink a little, but not too much...and they won't fall apart.
And best of all, they don't require some special "as seen on TV" gadget.

Here's what you need:
plastic wrap, parchment or wax paper cut into squares, a round container slightly larger than you want your burger, and a lid that is just a tiny bit smaller than your container

So to get started, lay out the container and cover with a large piece of plastic wrap.
Put a big handful of your seasoned hamburger meat in the container, on top of the plastic wrap.

Cover the meat with another piece of plastic wrap, and put the lid on top of the plastic wrap.
Start smashing the meat down with the lid. Use the lid to evenly spread the meat until there is no empty space. You want to press pretty hard, so your patty is really compact and has no air pockets left in it.
Using the plastic wrap that is hanging over the edge, pull the patty out of the container. Wrap in plastic wrap and repeat until all your patties are formed.
Put all your wrapped patties in the freezer for at least an hour.

When you remove them from the freezer, it will be easy to remove the plastic wrap and stack them between squares of parchment.

 At this point, you can go straight to the grill....or, put in a freezer bag and freeze for later.

Here are a few things to remember:
-season your meat before you make them into patties
-bring meat to room temp. before making into patties (it will be easier to work with)
-make patties slightly bigger than you want your finished burger, because they will shrink a little
-don't thaw before cooking (they will shrink less if they are frozen)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Perfect Rice Every Time

Who likes rice?
I do, I do!
Wierdo. I know.
Anyway. Rice is one of those things everyone needs to know how to make. There are a lot of cooking methods and recipes out there. My mom read somewhere to add liquid up to your first knuckle. RANDOM. I'm not saying it doesn't work 'cause I'm sure that totally works for someone.

I cook rice a lot, and I make it a lot of different ways....but I use the same "method" every time.
I'd say recipe, but the recipe can be changed. The method is the key. Plus I have a few tips that will give you yummy rice every time. lets start with the method.

First, you want to toast your rice.
-Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in your pan and add your dry rice. Stir until all grains are coated and "toast" for a few minutes. Just until some of the grains start to look slightly golden brown.

Next, you will add your liquid.
-By liquid, I don't mean water. I suppose you could use half water. I like to use chicken stock or broth. Sometimes I use juice, depending on the recipe. So the ratio for rice/liquid is this:
1 part rice + 2 parts liquid.

Now, you want to turn to high and season.
-Definitely season with salt. Quite a bit. At this point you can also add pepper, garlic or onion powder, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, cumin, or whatever suites your recipe.

Once the liquid comes to a boil, cover and reduce to low heat and set timer for 18 minutes. After 18 minutes, your rice done.

So here are some tips to keep in mind-
-Season really well and add flavorful liquid. Rice absorbs all of the cooking liquid, that's why it is bland when cooked with water.
-Don't remove lid during will let all of the heat and steam out.
-If you add veggies before cooking, use a tiny bit less liquid. I would take out about 1/8 cup for each cup of liquid.

-For a Spanish type rice, use canned tomato sauce as part of the cooking liquid. Saute diced garlic & onion in pan before toasting rice, and season with paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Add fresh cilantro after cooking.
-For a rice pilaf, sauté diced carrot, zucchini, & onion in pan before toasting rice and use chicken broth for cooking liquid. After cooking, add fresh parsley.
- For Mexican type rice, add frozen corn and canned black beans to boiling liquid. Use part chicken stock and part tomato juice. Season with garlic powder, onion powder cumin, and chipotle.
- For an Asian type rice, sauté diced garlic, ginger, carrot and scallions in pan before toasting rice. Use chicken stock with a splash of both soy sauce and chili sauce for liquid. After cooking, garnish with chopped parsley and diced scallion.

Using this cooking method for rice, your possibilities are endless. Serve plain white rice with Stir-Fry, or use my recipe ideas for a rice dish that stands on it's own. Also, don't hesitate to use this cooking method and create a recipe of your own. Why not?



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rotisserie Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup with rotisserie chicken, garden veggies, cheese, avocado, homemade tortilla strips, sour cream, lime.

So as I have mentioned, I LOVE soup. I cook it all year round, but it is especially scrumptious in the fall. Just for the record, scrumptious is not a part of my regular vocabulary. Just sounded good. My husband calls me a food snob, and now I think he'll call me a word snob.
Anyway, back to soup. Make a big pot of soup and eat for a few days. Soup is one of those few things that is actually better leftover. I am not sure why, but it just is.

Now, who wants to make this?


Chicken Tortilla Soup (Large Batch)

6 cups cooked shredded chicken (one whole rotisserie chicken or about 4 large breasts)
10-12 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cloves garlic- finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper- rib and seeds removed and finely diced
2 med. onions- chopped
2 med. bell peppers- chopped
1 cup corn- either fresh corn cut off cob or frozen
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans- drained and rinsed
1-2 packets taco seasoning
salt & pepper
garlic powder
onion powder

for toppings/garnish:
lime wedges
sour cream
shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Mexican blend)
avocado- chopped
homemade tortilla strips

In a large soup pot, heat a couple tbsp. oil and sauté garlic & jalapenos for about 1 minute. Quickly add onions & bell peppers, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a few more minutes, until they start to soften. Next, add corn and sauté for about 1 minute, until warmed through.
Next, add tomatoes & black beans.
Then, add chicken stock. Just enough to fill your pot about 3/4 full.
Bring to a simmer, and add taco seasoning, salt and pepper, onion and garlic powder, and cumin to taste.
Once your soup is simmering, add your cooked chicken. Let simmer for a few minutes and reduce to low until ready to serve.

For homemade tortilla strips:
Choose your favorite tortillas (I prefer flour) and cut into 1/4's. Stack and thinly slice into small strips. Fry in batches in about 1 inch oil until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. Season while still hot with salt and cumin (optional).

Ladle hot soup into bowl, sprinkle with cheese and avocado. Add a spoonful of sour cream, a squeeze of lime and a healthy handful of homemade tortilla strips and dig in. Feel free to add more toppings as your eating. I mean, less is not always more.